When I was just a newbie at Solomon McCown, I wrote a blog post regarding some of the tips and tricks I had picked up in the office. Well, the lessons continue as I recently had the pleasure of attending a Publicity Club of New England Panel on Garnering Coverage in Boston's Business Media. The event was moderated by an SM& Senior Vice President who was joined by a panel of editors of some of New England's most well respected media outlets, including:
- Jon Chesto, Managing Editor, Boston Business Journal
- Walter Frick, Business Editor, Bostinno
- Paul McMorrow, Regular Contributor, Boston Globe's op-ed page; Associate Editor, CommonWealth Magazine; and Contributor, Beer Advocate Magazine
- Frank Quaratiello, Business Editor, Boston Herald
- Cara Rubinsky, New England News Editor, The Associated Press
Together the panel tackled everyday dos and don'ts that we PR folks are faced with. Given the ever-changing media landscape, I found them to be incredibly helpful and I wanted to share them with you!
- Know the outlet: First and foremost, you have to know not only who you're pitching, but where you're pitching. Experts repeatedly stress the idea in pitching is to fit your news into a trend or larger business story. If your pitch is irrelevant to the outlet, you're wasting your time and the reporter's. Did something exciting happen in a small town in New York? That's great, but the Boston Herald isn't going to care about it unless you can tie it to some larger trend story.
- Know the reporter: As stated above, “You have to know who you're pitching.” That doesn't simply mean, I'm pitching Frank Quaratiello, business editor at the Boston Herald. What is his specific beat? What types of business topics does he like? There needs to be an investigation to answer these questions. Look online at your target reporter's bio and poke around the website for past articles. In order to feed reporters news, you have to know what they will bite at.
- Know the types of stories the outlet publishes: The media industry is always evolving, especially when it comes to splitting up content between online and print. As a result of increasing online readership, the online focus is much heavier than it was five years ago. For example, Frank Quaratiello explains that at the Boston Herald, print stories are aimed at pushing a story further, whether it's changing developments, a new approach or a new angle, in order for a story to make it to print, it often needs that extra bit of value from the online content.
- How to Stand Out – Phone vs. Email: Overall, it seemed the preferred method to reach a reporter is by email. However, the panel did highlight leveraging social media to catch reporters' attention is becoming increasingly useful. Paul McMorrow, for example, admitted that he picks up a lot of content for story ideas off of twitter. Mentioning his name and tweeting at him is very effective. As Walter Frick put it, “Twitter is what people are looking at constantly to see what's happening every second, and it is used as a platform to gauge immediate news.”
- Don't Call on Deadline: If you're ever interested in pissing off a reporter, try calling them while they are on deadline. If you call with a story at 2 p.m. on Wednesdays, knowing that the reporter's deadline is 3 p.m. on Wednesdays, that's what you would call a bad idea. Sure we can't know all the deadlines for each and every publication, but if you do have that information it is vital to your pitching strategy. For example, Jon Chesto informed us that Tuesday and Wednesday mornings are bad days to pitch him at the Boston Business Journal. In fact, since there's always a push for online content, 12:15 – 12:30 p.m. is the ideal time to pitch. Walter Frick at Bostinno says afternoons are easier for him, and Paul McMorrow's deadline for the Boston Globe is on Tuesdays. However, Frank Quaratiello and Cara Rubinsky both agreed there's never a good time for a bad story and there's always a good time for a good story.
- Following up: So you've sent the pitch. Now what? As you may know, the fun isn't over. You threw the pitch and now you have to see it through. When our panel of experts was asked how they prefer to be followed-up, they unanimously agreed via email. However, the moderator reminded them here is no escaping the follow-up from PR folks.
- Don't pitch stories that have appeared in a competing outlet: Well, we won't be that dramatic. Of course, the goal is to be the first to break the news, but let's be realistic, that's not always possible. As Walter Frick put it, “It may not be breaking news anymore, but if it comes down to the exclusive, for certain companies he's happy to schedule an interview to dig a little deeper.” When talking about the Boston Globe, Paul McMorrow says, “It's less about trying to scoop someone in particular than it is about having something interesting to say.”
- Make sure you have everything lined up: Paul McMorrow makes a great point when he says that some PR professionals think sending the press release is the end of your job, but for a reporter it's just the beginning. Don't send a pitch and disappear. Not only are you being unhelpful to the reporter over, but you're potentially losing an opportunity for your client while establishing a negative relationship with the reporter.
- Multimedia aspect: Another interesting topic that came up in the panel discussion was the topic of multimedia and its increasing popularity. Everything is online in today's media, and with that comes new innovative ways to bring content to readers. This includes videos. Cara Rubinsky discussed Associated Press' huge demand for video these days, which extends to topical content, i.e. videos on flu shots and quirky content, especially involving animals. As she puts it, “Anything with a good visible element can be pitched.”
- Develop relationships: I thought this was one of the most interesting topics raised during the panel discussion. In public relations, establishing good relationships with reporters is ideal, however, one element that we shouldn't forget is the value of face time. Cara Rubinsky makes a point not to let the business of the day get in the way of trying to establish relationships. Take advantage of having coffee with a reporter. No harm in asking, right? If you think about it, not only is it a chance to get out of the office, which we all need to do, but it's a chance to learn how you and the reporter can help each other. More importantly, getting face time for your clients is ideal, because you're establishing your client as a source. As Paul McMorrow said, “Establishing a relationship with reporters makes the difference between you bombarding the reporter with a pitch and you acting as a source.”
By Anna Rabin, Account Coordinator at Solomon McCown & Company.